Aldermen introduce 32 bills to start off 2019 session

DOWNTOWN — Members of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen went back to work after the holidays on Friday and immediately got a pile of papers on their desks.

Thirty-two different bills introduced at Friday’s board meeting will make their way through the legislative process in the coming weeks. Some are meant to help the redevelopment of individual properties. Others have bigger purposes, including regulating the city’s use of surveillance technology, fine-tuning the city’s Civilian Oversight Board and protecting the health of pregnant inmates in city jail cells.

The surveillance technology bill, introduced by Eighteenth Ward Alderman Terry Kennedy, seeks to control cameras, internet surveillance programming, listening devices, phone monitoring systems used by St. Louis agencies. 

The ordinance notes “a number of studies have shown that surveillance technologies are developing faster that the laws to govern them, resulting in an imbalance between governance and the use of these technologies and causing several cities across the country to enact new and/or revised statutes to ensure the civil rights and liberties of their citizens while allowing lawful surveillance as a viable safety option.”

The measure requires the Director of Public Safety to draw up a proposal to for the regulation of city entities’ use of surveillance technology.  The Board of Aldermen’s Public Safety Committee then would hold one or more hearings on the proposal, and the Board of Aldermen would then have to approve it.

Individual agencies would also have to submit a plan regulating how long the information collected is retained and justifying the need for keeping the information. It also would show the location of devices by neighborhood, any biases in the collection of data, possible adverse effects and identify those with whom the information is shared.

The policy would be protected by open records laws, and the director of public safety would have to submit an unredacted annual report.

Among the other bills introduced was one intended to rework the city’s Civilian Oversight Board, which was created in 2015 to look into complaints against the police department. Technical changes include new language for subpoenas and a requirement that a single form be used to file complaints. 

Seventh Ward Alderman Jack Coatar introduced a bill that would put a measure on the April 2 ballot to establish a 7-½ percent gross receipts tax on telecommunications businesses. Coatar said it would replace an expensive and needlessly complicated annual charge of $2.50 per linear foot of line. That discourages new companies from coming in and providing more competition, Coatar said. 

In a special ceremony during the meeting, the board passed a resolution marking the service of Anne-Marie Clark, who will retire soon from her position as St. Louis Family Court Commissioner. She was surprised to receive the resolution.

“Your impact has helped to change and enrich the fabric of the city,” Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed said to Clark during the meeting.

Reed, an African-American, recalled the support he got from Clark and her husband Richard Gaines when he ran for alderman in the mostly-white Sixth Ward. “When your neighbors got scared and ran away, you two stood up,” he said.

Speaking during the ceremony, Clark said, “I can think of virtually no time when I have been speechless, but I am today.”

Jim Merkel

Author: Jim Merkel

Born and raised in St. Louis, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of four books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis. For more about Jim, visit www.jimmerkelthewriter.com.

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